Anthony Bourdain took his own life the other night.
I can’t pretend to imagine what he was going through, the agony he must have felt, the darkness he couldn’t escape.
But I know how I feel about his loss.
I’m confused, sad and heartbroken. Struck hard by the loss of someone, who by all accounts, was as genuine and decent a soul as has walked this earth.
Sinner, not Saint. Addict. Critic. Traveler.
Bourdain saw it all. A man who walked to the edge, turned round and made it his mission to suck the marrow of life.
It feels wholly unfair to have lost him.
Bourdain spoke truth. It was his greatest gift.
Each of his shows were humanity lessons wrapped in the pursuit of gluttonous joy. Each episode shining a light on the life of the people living in where he was dropped, as much as the food they consumed together.
Anthony Bourdain loved food, ( oh how he loved food ), but his journeys were about the people he visited. Their lives, their reality, their humanity, a human exploration as much as one of pork crackling, noodles or whiskey. All without prejudice, without artifice and lacking the judgment we encounter too often these days.
It’s interesting to watch later episodes of his shows and see that as he aged and mellowed, he talked less and listened more. Each successive episode containing less of his story and more of all that was happening around him.
Journalist. Storyteller. Shiner of light.
This was a man of immense gifts, vision, and integrity.
His utter lack of pretense, his honesty in all things, his compassion towards others, were why people gravitated to him. He was as interested in talking to addicts in Massachusetts, or Michelin starred chefs in France, as he was in President Obama.
How many of us could say something similar?
In their tribute to him, a CNN reporter ( I forget which ), commented that we now have all the words Anthony Bourdain will ever contribute to this world. There won’t be anymore.
What a tragedy, we could use his truth more now than ever before.
There is another thought in all of this that I’m having a hard time with.
If Anthony Bourdain, with his immense talent, his vast wealth, a world of adoring fans and days spent doing what he called “the best job in the world.”, couldn’t go on, couldn’t muster the strength of life, then what the fuck are the rest of us supposed to do?
I’m not suggesting for a moment that money and fame buy happiness, few of us believe that to be true. But I worry about the men and women who suffer from depression and are struggling to get by. The ones fighting demons, and scratching for every opportunity, who look at things with less hope now.
I worry about those of us trying to find our way in this world, aiming for great heights, saddled with the knowledge that one of our heroes had been there, had achieved it all, and it wasn’t enough.
I worry about all of us when we lose such a light.
I’m not going to for a second try and pretend to understand what anyone suffering from depression is going through, and I am not qualified in any way to speak about how to fight back against its sick grip, but it’s becoming more and more evident that we have to start doing something different in dealing with this epidemic.
Depression is a plague, an unseen killer, working its way in waves across our cities and towns. Medications aren’t helping, more and more people are taking an endless array of drugs, and things are not getting better.
Maybe it’s time we try something different. Perhaps we need to do whatever possible to remove the stigma attached to being depressed, and work our asses off in building up the support and care, the acceptance we all need to feel better day to day.
These are people we love, and this sickness makes them believe they’re alone, that the world would be better off without them. It is our responsibility, our duty to show them they are wrong in that thinking.
Anthony Bourdain must have felt something like that, and now he’s gone.
We can’t keep letting this happen.
I found the following, from an interview years ago.
I’m doomed to have the best job in the world. How could I ever not do this? I go wherever I want. I work with close friends. I tell whatever stories I like in whatever fashion I choose to tell them, with the muscle of a major international cable news outfit behind me. It’s a dream of a job. It’s the best job in the world. I think I could be forgiven for being reluctant to ever leave it. I will probably die in the saddle.
I wish this was how you got to go Anthony. Much later, in the middle of a fine meal, with a great whiskey, surrounded by those you loved.
You deserved that.
We all deserve our version of that.
So many people are posting the phone number(s) for suicide hotlines and while there’s no doubt value in pointing people towards professional help, I’d prefer to make a different ask.
Call and ask the people you care about if they’re ok.